SHREWSBURY – Laurel Rossiter didn’t exactly get the chance to ease into her new position as Shrewsbury’s director of recreation.
“I think our budget meeting with the town manager was my third day on the job,” said Rossiter, who took over in January for former director Angela Snell. “But everyone has been really welcoming. The folks at Town Hall have been very collaborative, very helpful. It was great to step into that.”
Snell was a well-known department head, having worked for the town for more than 20 years, mostly in the parks and recreation and parks, recreation and cemetery departments. She left in October to take the role of assistant town manager in Clinton.
Rossiter recognizes she has big shoes to fill but her position is not specifically the same as Snell’s. A reorganization has shifted town parks under the umbrella of the Department of Public Works. Rossiter will be able to focus her full attention on the Recreation Department and its programs. She will be further aided by the addition of a new full-time position later this year.
Rossiter comes to Shrewsbury from Billerica, where she served as assistant director of that town’s Recreation Department for 16 months. Prior to that, she had worked for Lawrence Academy and Burlington Parks and Recreation.
A certified therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS), Rossiter has a passion for making recreation programs both inclusive and productive for people with special needs.
“I have a national certification for working with people with disabilities in recreation and leisure activities to enhance their well-being and quality of life,” explained Rossiter.
It was her experience working with children with moderate autism disorders that led her to becoming involved with recreation programs in her hometown of Groton.
“Groton really didn’t have a parks and recreation department. They had youth sports run by parents,” she recalled. “So, after college … I stumbled into a role in parks and recreation, putting my [professional] background together with recreation, which was really great.”
Rossiter began to incorporate her CTRS certification in her positions with Burlington and Billerica recreation and is bringing it to her new role in Shrewsbury.
Rossiter says it is her goal to be able to grow the recreation programs in Shrewsbury, leading to the involvement of more and more residents each year. She also wants to make sure that all programs, both new and existing, are welcoming and productive for residents with special needs.
Ultimately, she wants to make sure that every program offered by the Recreation Department is accessible to everyone, no matter their physical limitations.
“I think that’s the goal, the dream, is to make all of our programs welcoming and accessible and available,” she said.
Toward that end, she is looking to build on the already strong working relationship with Shrewsbury’s highly successful Special Olympics program.
Shrewsbury’s Recreation Department offers programs throughout the year for residents of all ages. The department presently offers nine youth classes and workshops, nine adult fitness and sport programs, 14 youth sports programs, six adult sports programs, a vibrant summer playground program and special events like the Flashlight Egg Hunt and summer concerts.